The awful truth behind these Russian trends is confirmed by provisional figures from the country’s 2010 census. The population has declined from 145 million in 2002 to just under 143 million -- less than half the population of its rival superpower, the United States (322 million), and far behind the rising powers of China and India to the east and south. If it were not for growth in immigration from former Soviet republics, the figure would be even worse...
In the creative corner there was the Year of the Family in 2008, with July 7 nominated a Day of Family, Love and Fidelity -- a new national holiday. For at least part of the year there was a ban on abortion propaganda in the media and even, in the Black Sea city of Novorossiysk, a “week without abortion” timed to coincide with the Russian Day of Motherhood on the last Sunday of November. During this pro-life lull the city provided open days in which psychologists and gynaecologists gave encouraging talks about motherhood, and universities screened films demonstrating the detrimental effects of abortion....
Novorossiysk also led the field with the somewhat crude instrument of a day devoted to “child making”, the city administration ordering that people be let off work early for the purpose of going home to boost the population. In the city of Ulyanovsk, Lenin’s birthplace, this day was timed patriotically to be exactly nine months before the Day of Russia.
Another encouraging sign is the slow march of “children’s villages” across the country -- the sixth is under construction -- providing group foster home care to the country’s abandoned children as an alternative to its dismal orphanages.
Earlier this month a draft law to restrict abortion was debated in the Duma, a sign of a growing opinion against this inhuman and socially damaging “solution” to underlying problems -- opinion which the President’s wife, Svetlana Medvedva, apparently shares. In a forum last year, according to the New York Times, she made references to the “rights of a child to life” and about economic and social pressures that drove women to abortion. “The state must help women keep their babies,” she said.Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has been vocal about the demographic problem and the need for financial compensation for women. As president in 2007 he introduced a maternity allowance of 250,000 roubles (about $10,000) to encourage women to have a second child. Current president Dimitry Medvedev has promised to make another existing birth incentive, non-cash “maternity capital”, available this year to pay home mortgages. Although fertility has risen somewhat over the past decade it is not clear whether these schemes have had much influence on the birth rate.
ShareIt has to be said, though, that Russia is only doing what the rest of the developed world has done -- going through what is euphemistically called “the second demographic transition” -- although in the worst possible circumstances: with a Soviet hangover seen in the rejection of family responsibility (Papa Stalin/Big Brother would look after everything if you just toed the line) and in the demoralisation of men (in particular); and within a political and economic system that is still unstable.
In any case, it is in the area of values that the most important work remains to be done, and not only in Russia. This is the reason that the World Congress of Families is meeting in Moscow at the end of this month to hold a demographic summit on Family and the Future of Humankind. The New York Times has tried to write it off as exporting anti-abortionism, but as WCF managing director Larry Jacobs says, it is about much more: “Late marriage, cohabitation and the culturally induced desire for small families are among the many factors that have led to a 50 per cent decline in birthrates worldwide since the late 1960s.”
Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, has endorsed the summit, saying: “Since the creation of the Universe the family has a special purpose; by renouncing it the human race endangers the very foundations of its own existence. I am convinced that all the healthy forces of society must unite to preserve the institution of the family and moral values.” (Read entire article.)